I admit it, I’m in love. Head over heels. Heels over head. Totally, 100% and fully committed. Worse yet, I’m addicted. The object of my affection? Here are clues: the body is crusty; its eyes stay soaked in salt water; locomotion is always sideways; its partner is mustard sauce; and it sports the prettiest darn pinchers you ever did see.
Am I trying to say stone crab? You bet your plastic bib I do. Bring ‘em to me cold, hot, lukewarm and delivered to my table by Luke or Lucy. Don’t insult me with small- or medium-size claws – make it either large or jumbo or I take my wallet elsewhere. Yeah, they’re expensive, but I care not that 98% of the weight is inedible shell. It’s a claw thing, baby, and I’ll skip a mortgage payment before being denied the pleasure of their company.
Suffice it to say that I can’t wait until Oct. 15th when Florida’s stone crab season officially opens. You’ll find me blocking the door of the chosen restaurant, and yes, I call ahead to make sure they won’t run out even if I get there later in the day.
Kelly and I don’t want merely four large claws each, we want six. That means ordering three dinners with normally four claws in each plate and sharing one. Fine, call me a pig, a slob, a glutton, a gorger, a gormandizer, a hopeless, drooling trencherman. I won’t hear you because I’ll be dipping and munching with all the grace of a bulldog eating a bowl of pudding.
Between May 1st when stone crab season ends until Oct. 15th when it finally begins, my mind often drifts to dunking a huge claw in drawn butter and then in mustard sauce, whereafter it’s directed into this cavernous maw my momma called a mouth. The flavor sends me into a heavenly trance with eyes closed, taste buds on fire and emitting embarrassing moans that fetch horrified glances from nearby diners. Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care.
You can have all the blue crabs, king crabs, Dungeness crabs, snow crabs, coconut crabs, hermit crabs, spider crabs, horseshoe crabs, brown crabs and fiddler crabs in the world, but I’ll sling them all off the table to make room for stone crabs. I don’t want that sweet meat stuffed, steamed, grilled or drowned in chowder or pasta, just serve stoners with a nut cracker or wooden hammer and get the hell out of my way.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, stone crab claws must be at least 2 7/8th inches – trappers have the measuring tool to do it quickly. While both claws can be harvested if of legal size, for the sake of conservation it’s best to allow the crab to keep one claw to fend off predators. Traps must conform to strict regulations as to size and construction with a degradable panel in case the trap line connected to a buoy gets separated (thus becoming a ghost trap). Traps can go into the water Oct. 5th, but cannot be raised until the 15th. You can view all the regs at myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/stone-crab.
Mark your calendar and do a Google search for reservations and directions to these October stone crab feasts:
21-23 – Coco’s Crabfest, Coco’s Crush Bar North Beach
22 – Dunedin Stone Crab Festival, Edgewater Park
28-29 – Frenchy’s Stone Crab Weekend, Frenchy’s Original Café
28-30 – Palm Pavilion’s Stone Crab Weekend, Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill & Bar
29-30 – Frenchy’s Stone Crab Weekend, Frenchy’s Outpost Bar and Grill
Unless the house is on fire, do not call or email me for about a week beginning Oct. 15thbecause I become a very crabby person.